by Kelsey J. Griffin
The Harvard Animal Law and Policy Clinic filed an amicus brief to the Supreme Court on Thursday supporting a Center for Biological Diversity-led challenge to the Trump administration’s wall along the Mexico-United States border.
The Center for Biological Diversity filed a petition for certiorari on Jan. 31, asking the Supreme Court to review six decisions by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security which allowed the Trump administration to waive over 40 federal laws that would slow down the construction of a border wall.
The Law School clinic represents the North American Butterfly Association and the National Butterfly Center — who manage a refuge along the border — as amici curiae in the case. Their brief claims the waivers DHS approved subvert laws that protect endangered species such as butterflies and moths.
“This includes irreparably harming dozens of rare animal and plant species that inhabit the Lower Rio Grande Valley, and forever destroying the already extremely fragile ecosystems on which they depend,” the brief reads.
Law Student Ashley Maiolatesi said the proposed border wall will differ from the barriers previously in place and could harm animals living in the area.
“It’s going to be made of steel and metal and be completely solid, and it’s going to have stadium lighting around the top and so that affects a lot of animals in their migration patterns and how they breed and travel and all sorts of things like that,” Maiolatesi said in an interview.
“Anything that is like a terrestrial animal — like the endangered ocelot that lives in that area — it can’t obviously get past this 36-foot high wall,” she added. “That is a huge issue because these animals are already so endangered.”
Maiolatesi also said constructing the wall would necessitate clearing land on either side of the border. The amicus brief describes the proposal for this 150-feet-wide clear-cut area as an “enforcement 10 zone” and claims it would destroy an estimated 20 miles of habitat for each mile of the wall built.
“That eliminates over 13,000 acres of viable habitat along the Rio Grande Valley right now,” she said.
The brief mentions additional concerns about the proposed wall, including the lack of a sloped escape route for animals in the case of fire or flood and an increase in danger, pollution, and erosion due to high-speed patrol vehicles.
Maiolatesi said the Law School clinic hopes to raise awareness about the alleged lack of research into the potential consequences of the proposed wall.
“None of the environmental assessments or any paperwork was filed on what these ramifications would be if these changes to the law were made,” she said. “We wanted to really bring to light the animal aspects, and how this was going to be affecting animals in the area throughout the United States and Mexico.”